Publisher: Kronos Digital Entertainment
Developer: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: 2/24/2000
Available Exclusively On
Fear Effect is actually a game that goes way back for me. I remember the summer of 2000 and was shopping around in a local game store, Game Doctor, back in Casper, Wyoming. There weren’t really any databases to look up reviews back then, outside of magazines, so I would always pick a game based on its cover. I saw Fear Effect, $30 used in the display case. I used trade-in credit (back when it was all written down on carbon paper) and took the game home. Seeing it had 4 discs I thought I was in for one hell of a ride.
I was actually dead wrong and returned the game the following day. It was frustrating, hard, and content too mature for my age at the time. It’s so strange finishing this game almost 20 years later and realizing that it was actually harder than I thought. This game is downright unfair and frustrating around every corner.
You play three different characters throughout the game, Hana, Deke, and Glas. All three are mercenaries hired by a Chinese mobster who wants his kidnapped daughter back. It starts out as a spy-style action game and then quickly turns into something supernatural. It’s the strangest thing and is such a jarring change of pace for this type of game. That will be the least of your worries, however.
The game has beautifully pre-rendered backgrounds that you run around a la Resident Evil style. These “tank” controls are just awful and there’s a reason why they don’t exist anymore. You can sneak around, shoot, and use items, but it’s how those are executed that makes the game so hard and unfair. Stealth is actually out of the question, no matter how slowly I snuck up guards would hear me and kill me. I just had to blast my way through everything and therein lies another issue: Ammo. You will have many enemies thrown at you with little ammo and the supernatural enemies don’t drop ammo. They even get clever towards the end and make them drop paper ammo that you need to backtrack to a fire and burn to get the real ammo.
It doesn’t end there, you will be reloading save after save and dying over and over again. Most of the puzzles and traps will trigger an FMV, and usually a death FMV, meaning game over. Just the slightest pixel of your character touches the trap and you’re dead. It’s back to reloading the save, which is rather long by the way. The backtracking is the final killer here, especially on the final level, with items gathering on either end of the level just to unlock the door on the opposite end. It’s silly, archaic, even for the time, and didn’t need to be in this game.
I will admit that the puzzles are rather clever. You actually get clues that are organically placed in the environment and you need to write them down to solve the puzzle which is neat. Back in the day, walkthroughs were scarce, so all you had was a guide or writing things down. The puzzles aren’t serious brain scratchers, but they are tough and fun.
The combat itself is awful and is the main cause for reloads. You get a dodge button, but with awful tank controls, you just stand there blasting everything. There’s no cover, no armor, nothing like that. You also have to flip through your inventory with square and circle while you’re getting blown away which can cause problems. Why not pause the action with a radial menu? That’s not too hard.
Is the game even worth trudging through for the story? Not really. The mix between Chinese mafia antics and the undead is weird and forgettable here. The characters have no depth and the story is slow to move forward. It’s entertaining enough to push you through the game, but nothing you would replay, even for the multiple endings. With that said, I only recommend playing this if you want a beautiful-looking PS1 game to play or you want a decent adventure. Just get the cheat codes handy or expect to spend more time reloading than playing.